Posted tagged ‘winning’

The Pressure To Be Perfect

March 3, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                        March 3, 2016

                                

A recent study out of England has concluded that parental pressure in many cases causes young athletes to resort to doping to enhance their performance level. Daniel Madigan, a PhD student at the University of Kent, writes that these “tiger parents” push their teenaged children to high levels of achievement. The athletes choose to turn to doping in order to meet their parents’ expectations and dreams.

The pressure to perform has been raised to now be a pressure to be perfect. I see it quite often in athletes who are more afraid of not meeting their parent’s expectations than letting their teammates down.

What now seems intolerable is failure! The reality, however, is that every game between two teams has a winner and a loser. The middle school boy’s team I’m currently coaching has won most of it’s games, but the other side of that is there are other teams who lose most of their games. Is that a bad thing? No, losing a game is just as much, and maybe even more so, a teachable moment as winning a game.

How often, though, do we look at falling short as total failure? “Falling short” is the reality of each of our lives. For some of us it surfaces in our athleticism, for others it appears in our school report card, and for others it becomes evident in the falling apart of our marriages or separation between ourselves and those who used to be close to us.

“Falling short” is part of our DNA.

Enter into that a reluctance to failing. Not a “Rocky” kind of perseverance, however, but a pressure to win that causes us to cheat, and fabricate, inject and falsify. Having perfect kids  becomes what parents press for, no matter the costs.

Little Johnny gets his own personal trainer who makes a living off “tiger parents.” The parents, however, expect Johnny to make them proud. They will not accept the fact that their son can’t walk and chew gum at the same time. Johnny feels the pressure to perform and perfect and looks for that substance that will give him the advantage.

The pressure to be perfect is casting an ugly shadow over our schools and communities. Here’s the thing! Wherever there is some kind of unnatural or “unholy” pressure there will be an unhealthy reaction.

A high school junior gives up the sport he’s been playing since he was four because the pressure to be perfect has made the whole endeavor detestable to him.

A volleyball player suffers a major shoulder injury because she has overused the parts of her body that she spikes the ball with.

A student gets rushed to the ER because he has consumed too many high-caffeine energy drinks in his attempt to study for endless hours and hours in order to receive a 4.0 GPA.

A college student drops out of church, because his parents made him feel guilty all through high school if he missed any kind of church function. He began to think that God loved him only if he had perfect church attendance. Now he rarely goes, as he wrestles with this new thought of a God who is gracious.

The pressure to be perfect happens in just about any area of our culture, and it is often a very unhealthy experience.

Winning My First Blue Ribbon…and Second

April 28, 2014

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                        April 28, 2014

 

When I was eight years old I was a non-stop mover. I was the hyper kid before we ever used that term. I may have defined it. I had short brown hair…no sissy long hair for us in those days…a freckled face, and most of my front teeth. Women were always telling me I was cute. Of course, they were also all my aunts. Unrelated eight year old girls seemed unimpressed!

In the summer time our community of Williamstown, West Virginia was a paradise for kids. There was the community swimming pool, Little League baseball, summer tennis lessons on the high school courts, and the greatest outdoor basketball courts I can remember.

Williamstown also had a summer parks and recreation morning program where kids could come and get involved in different crafts, games, and other kid-oriented activities. At the end of the summer the Wood County Parks and Recreation competitions were held in Vienna, a few miles up the road. Children from the various summer program areas came together to compete against one another in swimming, track and field, and other competitions.

I can remember hopping on the bus that morning with the other kids from my park and heading up the highway. I had my school lunch pail containing a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on white. (We didn’t know what wheat bread was in those days. If it was around it would have been viewed with a high degree of suspicion. After all, in 1962 we were told that there were all kinds of Communist subversive efforts going on. To us wheat bread would have been seen as a subtle pulling towards the dark side.)

      On the way to the competition my park director, a nice-looking young lady who I remember as being named Patty, informed me that I was going to be competing three events: the eight year old 25 yard freestyle and the 100 yard freestyle relay in the swimming competition; and the eight year old 50 yard dash in track.

I knew how to run fifty yards. I was fast. Whenever we played tag on the school playground none of the girls could catch me!

Maybe that wasn’t the best of ideas, now that I think about it!

The swimming competition started right after we arrived at the Vienna park, and being eight, my age group was to go first.

The announcer hit the volume on the loud speaker and said, “All those boys in the eight year old 25 yard freestyle race are to report to the deep end of the pool.” 

That was me! I entrusted my lunch pail to my friend Ronnie and trotted on my tippy toes to the  end of the pool that featured the diving boards. There was only one other boy waiting there. The starter waited another moment to make sure there were no other boys stumbling towards the deep end and then he turned to the two of us and asked, “Are you boys here for the eight year old race?” I nodded yes like a kid about to be given medicine, but the other boy looked up at the man with a pitiful expression of uncertainty and asked, “Is this water over my head?”

“Well, yes son, it’s twelve feet deep!”

     A couple of eyebrows rose towards heaven, and his eyeballs got as big as saucers, and he said to the man, “Well…I can’t swim!”

The starter looked a little puzzled and said, “Ohhh!” And then he turned towards me and continued, “Well, I guess that means you win, son!”

He handed me a blue ribbon, which I would have immediately pinned to my chest if I hadn’t been bare-chested.

The thing of it was…I couldn’t swim either! Honesty, however, had not arrived as a resident of my life, and I wouldn’t start taking swimming lessons at the Williamstown Community Pool until the next summer. I had the mindset that I could dog paddle twenty five yards. Lassie did it on TV all the time!

Besides, the deep end of a pool where the water was undisturbed looked deceptively shallow…like you could just reach over and touch the bottom.

But if you didn’t HAVE to get wet, why give out any incriminating information?

So I didn’t!

Thirty minutes later our relay team was the only team entered in the swimming relay race…so I doubled my blue ribbon haul…and was still bone dry!

The third blue ribbon was legit! I out-raced about twenty other eight year old boys in the fifty yard dash. I was like a greyhound in the midst of a bunch of dachshunds!

I enjoyed my peanut butter and jelly sandwich and hid my three blue ribbons in the safe of my lunch box, like I was The Man from U.N.C.L.E!

I’m not sure I learned any lessons that day on the value of good sportsmanship and fair play, but…I was eight!

I still have those three blue ribbons in my closet. Every time I come across them while looking for something else I simply chuckle and remember.

Those were good days, days that still make me smile, except now when I smile I have all my front teeth!